Black Business Council reaffirms support for government

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Black Business Council (BBC) has assured President Cyril Ramaphosa of its “unshakeable support” for government’s efforts to achieve inclusive economic growth.

At an engagement with President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria on Thursday, the Council committed to work in partnership with government to address the economic challenges represented by high levels of unemployment, especially youth unemployment; the country’s sovereign credit rating, and the systemic risk arising from Eskom’s financial and operational difficulties.

“The Council outlined its keenness to address challenges faced in the South African economy and unlocking opportunities presented in various sectors,” the Presidency said in a statement on Thursday.

The Black Business Council represents black professionals and business associations and chambers, which has since the dawn of democracy partnered with government to increase the participation of black business in the nation’s economy. The Council is an influential voice in articulating the position of the business community around key national economic issues.

BBC President Sandile Zungu noted the progress made by government in areas such as preferential procurement; competition law; the allocation of radio frequency spectrum; the adoption of an integrated resource plan for energy; the fight against gender-based violence and femicide and the inception of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

“The Council drew attention to the challenges faced by state-owned enterprises; the erosion of capacity in the public sector; low levels of business confidence; the impact of crime on tourism; insufficient competition in the financial services sector; the effect of the crisis at Eskom on industrialisation, and the slow pace of digital migration,” the Presidency said.

The BBC briefed the President on opportunities arising from digital transformation, including the possible creation of 500 000 jobs in 10 years in globally traded services such as business process outsourcing; labour-absorbing platforms that will draw lower skilled workers into transport or accommodation services, and the positioning of South Africa as a hub for frontier technologies.

The Council also expressed its interest in ensuring that black business participates meaningfully in intra-African trade with the advent of free trade across the continent.

President Ramaphosa was accompanied by Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel; Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza and Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

The President said it was encouraging that the business sector, particularly black business, was keen to engage with government on the challenging economic climate to create jobs and improve the living conditions of South Africans.

He restated government’s irrevocable commitment to broad-based black economic empowerment as well as maintaining the non-racial character of the country. The President called for a national discussion on gender transformation which lags behind race transformation.

The President welcomed the BBC’s public statement of support to the incoming Chief Executive of Eskom and assured the Council that the selection process had been undertaken with the required rigour.

The President also welcomed the BBC’s willingness to work with government to build the capacity of the state.

He called on the BBC’s members in provinces to participate in the Khawuleza model of district-based development and work alongside the public sector in unlocking problems and developing solutions.

The President invited the BBC to further engagement on the Council’s call for a reimagination and repositioning of the township economy.

The President agreed that relevant Ministers would engage further with the BBC on issues raised in Thursday’s discussion, and that there should be structured periodic engagements between the President and the Council. –